I was on a mission to buy sparkly blue eyeshadow with my babysitting money.  

I was in the sixth grade. I thought sparkly blue eyeshadow was cool. But most notably, nobody batted an eye at a 12-year-old babysitting or walking alone half a mile to the drug store.

Fast-forward 30 years and a totally typical scenario from my latchkey childhood feels risky — at least to some people.

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When I was 7, my best friend’s name was George.

He lived around the corner from me. George was tall and lanky. His elbows always akimbo, his cowlick stellar in its sheer verticality. He had an aquarium. He had a glow-in-the-dark board game. He had the 45 rpm of "Hang On, Sloopy," and he was a Harry Nilsson fan, just like me. I can still recall his house, and all of the luminous joy it held, perfectly in my mind's eye — all part of the frozen 7-year-old's mosaic that exploded into pieces when my parents' marriage failed.

After my parents split, George and I lived just an hour apart. But our parents weren't willing to ensure that George and I stayed in regular contact. Once or twice a year, we were allowed a sleepover, and George always came to spend the night on my birthday. His visit was the one gift I asked for.

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Melissa Spitz's mother was institutionalized for the first time when Melissa was 6 years old.

Back then, Mrs. Spitz had just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and as the years went by, her mental health continued to decline. She worked her way through a hysterectomy and cancer treatment, which led to alcohol abuse, a prescription pill problem, and, eventually, a divorce from Spitz's father.

"I was actually extremely fortunate and started seeing a therapist when I was 13. It was initially to deal with my mother’s recent cancer diagnosis, but naturally a lot came up," Spitz said. "As a kid it was chaos and nothing made sense. I empathize with her a lot more, but I really feel as if I am still putting all the pieces back together."

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Family

Everyone feels like they missed out on something as a kid.

Maybe you never got the Sweet 16 party you always wanted or never got to go on the glamorous family vacations your friends were always taking.

Eventually, though, you grow up, you move on, and you tuck those loose ends away.

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